Education in school or college has a number of unique characteristics and requirements. However, the success or failure of students in education is usually explained in terms of their abilities to develop skills, use the material, and conduct research. Unfortunately, such an assumption is made by many people. Students are not the only cohorts that should take responsibility for their education. There are many leaders who have to develop special programs, think about new strategies, and support all participants in a learning process. Nowadays, a demographic category may have different definitions that make it vague and problematic for many facilities (Davis, 2010).
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However, leaders can introduce effective strategies in order to improve access, retention, or persistence of students. For example, Patterson Silver Wolf, Butler-Barnes, and van Zile-Tamsen (2017) create an article that contains several strong recommendations on how to increase retention and avoid dropouts. The model under discussion is not an individual but rather a systematic (campus-level) approach that includes the necessity to support living and learning communities, promote belonging social interventions, and develop self-regulated learning.
The increase of retention levels in schools and colleges in the modern goal teachers, leaders, and governments are interested in. Among the existing variety of models and approaches, it is not always easy to make the right choice and achieve the desired results. The peculiar feature of the model developed by Patterson Silver Wolf et al. (2017) is the possibility to touch upon different aspects of student life and investigate retention from the point of view of the existing communities, social relationships, and personal abilities.
The authors find that the gap in retention rates between African Americans, Hispanics, and American Indian/Alaskan Native students cannot be ignored any more (Patterson Silver Wolf et al., 2017). However, one single situation or concern cannot cause a decrease in retention among a huge number of students. Therefore, it is necessary for leaders to clarify what may change students’ desire to get an education.
The practice that may influence the work environment of educational leaders discussed in the chosen article consists of three main stages. First, leaders have to pay attention to the services that are offered to students as a part of the living and learning community as they promote a positive experience, high GPAs, and stable retention (Patterson Silver Wolf et al., 2017). In other words, they should check if students have enough sources and opportunities to stay involved in different programs and events.
The interconnected nature of living and learning communities influences students’ interests in developing and changing their school or college lives. They may invite their families to participate in different events, organize debates, and raise the discussion of issues that mean a lot to them. Talks about student poverty, job challenges, addiction, and other concerns unit students and encourage their cooperation with teachers and other educational leaders. In addition, a properly organized living and learning community is a step forward to choose a university, relying on the opinions of peers, colleagues, and already experienced young people.
The second part of the model is based on the social belonging of students. To increase student retention means to remove problems in their relationships with each other. As soon as they enter colleges, many students begin suffering from social separation and seclusion. They do not know how to ask for help and continue dealing with their personal and academic problems on their own without even understanding how beneficial additional help and support can be.
If leaders want to keep high retention levels, they should check the quality of peer relationships and the absence of mental or physical health problems. Minority students suffer from low feelings of belonging during the first semester (Patterson Silver Wolf et al., 2017). Leaders have to increase this feeling and offer activities where students can contact, share experience, and get familiar with each other, as well as with local traditions.
The final part of the model to improve retention among students is based on the application of the theory of self-regulated learning (SRL). Patterson Silver Wolf et al. (2017) discover that students who participate in SRL courses (disregard their race or ethnicity) have higher retention rates. Students develop their thinking and learning abilities using their own knowledge and understandings. Self-regulated learning also promotes a decreased number of conflict situations and reduced dropouts because students are free to choose what they are interested in, but not what other people impose on them.
According to Patterson Silver Wolf et al. (2017), leaders may improve the SRL courses through the possibility to choose a preferred learning approach, define the order of their daily academic life, and make an assessment and leave feedback to each other. A perfect understanding of what can be done and what should be avoided is a core achievement of the chosen strategy. Educational leaders underline the fact that they take care of students and provide them with multiple choices and opportunities. At the same time, they can create some boundaries regarding the abilities of their facilities.
Performing the role of an educational leader, I should start thinking about the necessity to change student demographics and improve access and retention ratings. Though it is a challenging piece of work, such models as the one developed by Patterson Silver Wolf et al. (2017) can be rather helpful for leaders. I am going to use the offered approach in my leadership practice because of two important reasons.
First, I believe that student demographics becomes a problem as soon as leaders fail to investigate it from as many as possible perspectives but find it enough to say that racial diversity is the source of inequalities among students. Second, I think that student demographics may be changed only when several approaches are used as a part of a single strategy.
I am ready to work hard to achieve positive results in changing student demographics. This model is based on learning and living activities, students’ behaviors, and self-regulation (Patterson Silver Wolf et al., 2017). This approach is more than enough for teachers and educational leaders. My role as a leader is to prove that the support of students should be developed at different levels. I have to communicate with students and even their families to clarify what may bother them and what kind of help may be required.
In general, any educational leader has a number of duties and obligations to students, their families, teachers, and other stakeholders. The model introduced in the chosen article is not a list of recommendations that have or have not to be followed by leaders. It is a combination of factors with the help of which students may improve their learning processes. It is not a guide but a supportive tool that has an impressive power to influence the work environment and use student variety as a benefit of education but not its challenge.
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Davis, J. (2010). The first-generation student experience: Implications for campus practice, and strategies for improving persistence and success. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.
Patterson Silver Wolf, D. A., Butler-Barnes, S. T., & van Zile-Tamsen, C. (2017). American Indian/Alaskan native college dropout: Recommendations for increasing retention and graduation. Journal on Race, Inequality, and Social Mobility in America, 1(1), 1-15. Web.